The Algorithm ~ Hell is Other Demons
Darkwave’s always hand-in-hand with its brighter sister synthwave, brooding in some unlit corner, intoning some weird occult meme curse. Hell is Other Demons fulfils the image perfectly by means of both atmospheric and crunchy, melodic tracks that throw down the 8-bit gauntlet of nostalgia only to creatively lead listeners somewhere else (thank the gods!). Tracks like “Cure of the Moon” combine seamless production with 80s horror aesthetics and Vangelis-like progressions, while beat-oriented ones like “Internal Affairs” bring out the best of Gothicized piano jams in the style of Carpenter Brut. Still, the soundtrack, particularly from the middle to the end, is not afraid to blast its noisy electronics as if they were guitars, giving it a DOOM vibe of aggression. This rock n’ roll – even metal – underside works to highlight both the fast beats and the baroque-isms of darkwave, making them even better at working your heart-rate up. The contrast with its quieter, gloomy interludes elevates the music to a constantly threatening neon oppression in which even the moments of calm are but preludes to a doomed struggle.
Olivier Deriviere ~ A Plague Tale: Innocence
A Plague Tale effortlessly joins the ranks of many a (late) medieval-inspired soundtrack that with its mix of period-apt instruments and modern ones fulfills the creation of a powerfully dramatic musical fantasy. If you want accurate viola da gamba, go listen to Jordi Savall – we’re here to enjoy the modern fable of ‘Dark Ages’ misery, irrationality and death, all of which Deriviere develops perfectly. With its oppressive cello drone, “Inquisition”, for example, is a moody, even violent track, its riffs almost reveling in the uneasiness of their repetition. It also signals an atmospheric use of instruments that contrasts with last year’s melody-centered Vampyr, with quick string riffs and drones replacing narrative drives. That’s not to say there aren’t any, but that they serve the purpose of setting a terrifying, gloomy mood. The tones in “The Killing” are bright, but their dissonances indicate something horrible underneath, like watching a pleasant landscape while being overcome with anxiety. This tension is alleviated every now and then by sweet tracks like “Together Forever”, which also mostly rely on the warmth of harmony to set a new mood. Still, there’s no rest until the very end of the album, when the last few tracks finally offer some hopeful melodies and quiet reflections… until the dissonances kick in once again, sometimes as undertones (“Beyond the Horizon”), but other times as sheer emotional punches (“Reunited”). Just to remind us that this suffering’s not entirely over (perhaps), the soundtrack finishes with “The Wrath”, which goes back to the tense sense of threat that forms the backbone of the album. This thing’s about one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, after all. (David Murrieta Flores)
Available in vinyl from Black Screen Records; available for streaming in Spotify.Tweets by @press_a_acl